On Friday afternoon, after 10 days of rumor, hearsay and plane-tracking, LeBron James announced he was returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers in an essay posted by Sports Illustrated. The move was universally lauded, with pundits and fans alike agreeing that James’s return to the team that drafted him was one of the best sports storylines ever. We agreed. Our resident assistant content director, a native of Cleveland, breaks down exactly why it could go down as one of the greatest moments in sports history.
1. “Home” Still Means Something
For some, “home” is a place you can’t wait to escape. For others, home is a fixture, a place that pulls at you and whispers to you to return no matter where you might travel. To those who grew up in Northeast Ohio, home has always been more than just a word.
LeBron James gave that sentiment validation when, after four years in Miami, he succumbed to the call of his hometown of Akron.
“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” James wrote. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
Northeast Ohio felt forgotten when LeBron left us. We were wrong. We never left LeBron’s mind at all.
2. Cleveland’s Renaissance Hits the National Spotlight
Cleveland has long been showered with tired jokes, and the next person to mention the Cuyahoga River catching on fire, oh, 50 years or so ago, will be the one millionth to make that “clever” reference. Oh, another Comic Sans joke? How original! Perhaps each and every joke feels played out because Cleveland has undergone a serious renovation.
We didn’t need LeBron James to return to validate our newfound coolness, but his commitment to the Cavs has put our fair city’s rebirth on the front lines. NBC’s Meet the Press recently ran a story about Cleveland securing the 2016 Republican National Convention. The New York Times has written multiple articles about the great stuff that’s going on by Lake Erie. We also make some of the best beer in the world at the Great Lakes Brewing Company.
LeBron will only make the spotlight brighter.
3. Johnny Manziel, Andrew Wiggins and LeBron James Will All Be in the Same Place
You have to go back to the mid-90s Cleveland Indians, with guys like Albert Belle, Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton and Manny Ramirez all playing on one team, for a time period when the 216 had multiple, bonafide sports stars doing their thing at the same time.
With former Heisman Trophy winner and swan float enthusiast Johnny Manziel already in the fold, adding Andrew Wiggins, the Cavs’ number 1 NBA Draft pick, whom some have called the Canadian LeBron James, and James has turned Cleveland into the center of the sports universe.
Drake’s already looking for real estate.
4. Kyrie Irving Has a Chance to Truly Flourish
Kyrie Irving had an electric rookie season three years ago as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but since then, things have been somewhat of a roller coaster. His shooting percentage has declined every season. His defense, especially on the pick and roll, has been largely atrocious. During Fan Appreciation Night in 2013, he strolled off the court when he was supposed to stay to sign autographs.
Then there were rumors of a rift in the locker room last season between Irving and Dion Waiters. The situation was “cleared up” during the most awkward media session ever.
Enter LeBron. Not only will James make Irving an infinitely better player (can you picture the two of them on the fast break? My goodness!), but he will press fast forward on Irving’s sluggish maturation process. He will hold Irving accountable on the court and off, something Irving hasn’t had to contend with in his first three years in the league. If Irving (who’s still only 22 years old) is serious about becoming one of the best point guards in the NBA, James will help him make it happen.
5. We Can Finally Stop Talking About “The Decision” and the “Letter”
July 8, 2010 was an awful night. LeBron James announced he was leaving Cleveland for Miami in one of the worst PR stunts in recent memory, and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert responded with a letter to fans that was on the same scathing level as a certain Nas song aimed at Jay-Z.
With reports citing that the two giants of industry patched things up during a super-secret but not-so-secret meeting in Miami last weekend, we can finally put to rest those two awful actions and their smoldering aftermath. They simply don’t matter anymore.
6. The 2014 Cavaliers Home Opener Will Induce Goosebumps
I’m picturing it now. The lights dim and a video montage plays, chock full of LeBron’s best moments as a Cleveland Cavalier. His dunk over Kevin Garnett. His 25 straight points against the Detroit Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. His Hail Mary 3-pointer against the Orlando Magic. Any and all of his dunks. The highlight reel ends, and a single spotlight finds LeBron sitting on the bench, tears in his eyes as the words “He’s Home” appear on the 28-foot-high video scoreboard at Quicken Loans Arena. The crowd stands and cheers for almost five minutes. I’ll be shedding grown-man tears without a doubt.
7. More of This
8. And Hopefully This
9. And Definitely This
10. Oh! And This. He Had So Much More Fun in Cleveland
[youtube video=”-CqC42ncQfs” /]
11. It Proves That Fans Are Just That…Fanatics
Burning jerseys is an extreme action. After LeBron made his announcement to leave Cleveland in 2010, a video circulated showing a few fans in Cleveland burning his jersey, which then somehow turned into OH MY GOD! EVERYONE IN CLEVELAND IS LIGHTING HIS JERSEY ON FIRE! WHAT’S WRONG WITH THEM?
That narrative was ultimately proved false this week as hundreds of Cavs fans brought their unburned jerseys out of the closet to celebrate The King’s return. Turns out extreme fans exist everywhere, as shown by this Heat fan burning his James jersey
and this defaced Heat mural
. Most fans are even-keeled, but crazies exist everywhere. It’s just something we have to accept.
12. The (Hopeful) Return of the Witness Billboard
13. LeBron’s Heartfelt Essay
If Dan Gilbert’s aforementioned letter was a horrible error in judgment, LeBron’s essay announcing his return to Cleveland was a thing of beauty, erasing any lingering thread of villainy left over from 2010.
14. It Humanizes One of the Best Athletes of All Time
We tend to think of professional athletes as part of another, superior species—behemoths who accomplish superhuman feats we normal folk only dream about. And although LeBron does live a life of luxury—driving Lambos and traveling to Brazil to take in the World Cup final—he also wants similar things the rest of us mortals seek.
He wants to raise his family where he grew up. He wants to be around family, and those whom he knows, trusts and loves. He wants to settle down and give back to the community that raised him. LeBron may never be like the rest of us, but it’s nice to know that even the best basketball player on the planet wants some of the same things we do.
15. What a Boost to Cleveland’s Economy!
OK, so Mike Polk’s “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video
” may have joked about Cleveland’s economy being based on LeBron James, but the fact of the matter is, it’s kind of true. Think about what downtown Cleveland is going to look like if the Cavs have a home game on Saturday night, and the Browns have one on Sunday. People might just sleep overnight in cardboard boxes out on the streets (insert a housing economy joke here.) Downtown will be electric, and people will be crowding the local businesses and spending money.
16. The Return of the Iconic Dunk
17. The Nike LeBron XII Gets a Jump Start
Let’s be honest. The LeBron XI was a flop. I’m not talking about its sales; the shoe did extremely well at retail, but then again, so did Lil’ Wayne’s Rebirth.
LeBron barely wore the shoe, and the few times he did, he usually switched to a different pair. Apparently, Nike couldn’t figure out how to keep Bronny’s foot feeling comfortable no matter how many tweaks they made. The LeBron XII is a fresh start. It already looks better
than the XI, and with LeBron’s return to Cleveland, the shoe’s colorways and storylines are endless. Can’t wait to see what he breaks out for opening night.
18. The Witness Car Can Finally Come Back
Photo via Waiting For Next Year
19. The Cavs Might Wear Those Awesome Throwback Jerseys Again
20. Members of the National Media Who Diss Small Markets Must Now Show Respect
The Boston Red Sox could be 10-1/2 games out of first place and field an entire team of minor leaguers—they’d still be on ESPN 30 times a year. The national media loves to pretend like smaller market teams don’t actually exist, and Bill Simmons’ hatred of the Cavaliers was almost palpable on national television. Tough. With James back in Cleveland (and Jabari Parker in Milwaukee), the national media has no choice but to acknowledge small cities once again. (But they will probably continue to overlook San Antonio, despite the Spurs’ recent whipping of the Heat for the NBA title.)
21. The Cleveland Cavaliers Won’t Win the NBA Lottery Again Next Year
I’m a huge Cavaliers fan, but even I think the team’s winning the lottery in three of the past four years was ridiculous. Just look at Julius Erving’s face. We’re sorry, Dr. J.
22. The LeBron James Puppet Commercials Will Start Up Again
[youtube video=”A6BiemoJmD4″ /]
23. LeBron Could Bring Cleveland Its First Championship Since 1964
If James is able to help the Cavs capture the elusive title Cleveland so desperately seeks, all hell will break loose. They will build statues of him around town. He’ll never pay for a meal or drink in the city as long as he lives. They’ll rename the Terminal Tower “The LeBron James Tower.” He’s already called The King, but if he wins a championship here, he’ll be a god. People will party for days, and everyone will remember where they were the day the Cavaliers hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy. For now, we can only imagine.